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How harmful can a child’s name be to their best interests?

In the previous post, we discussed a factor that is sometimes considered in child custody disputes. Typically one parent will try to show that he or she is the fit parent by arguing that the other parent is unfit. But what happens if a court determines that neither parent should have custody?

How do courts decide that neither parent is fit? While you may not hear of this situation very often, one has been in the news recently. Two parents lost custody of their three children, who were given Nazi-inspired names.

The three children were removed from their parents’ care in 2009 after there were accusations of abuse. But the parents are certain that they lost custody because they chose to name two of their children Adolf Hitler and Aryan Nation.

Custody matters, whether during divorce proceedings or otherwise, are often settled by looking at what is in the best interests of the kids. So how much weight is put on the name of a child? How does a court determine whether a name is harmful to a child’s best interests?

The parents have been appealing the court’s decision, claiming that there was no basis for taking the children from their custody. But an appeals court found there were several reasons why the children were put into foster care:

  • Evidence of domestic violence
  • Unemployment (both parents)
  • Evidence of physical and mental disabilities (both parents)

This was enough to call into question the parents’ abilities to raise the children and provide for them. The fact that they named their children potentially harmful names may have just been an additional concern.

Source: Time: “Parents Who Gave Children Nazi-Inspired Names Fighting to Regain Custody,” Allison Berry, Oct. 28, 2011


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